Archive for the ‘1 Peter 3’ Category

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IV   1 comment

temple-of-solomon

Above:  The First Temple at Jerusalem

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 7:1-22 or Haggai 1:15b-29

Psalm 41

Matthew 26:20-35 or Mark 14:17-31 or Luke 22:14-38

Colossians 3:18-4:18 or 1 Peter 2:1, 11-18 (19-25); 3:1-12

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The First Temple at Jerusalem–when it was new and after it had become ruins–occupies the focus in the two options for the First Reading.  God–in the Ark of the Covenant–was present there, faith affirmed.  With that faith came the obligation to, in the words of Psalm 41, consider the poor and the needy.  This was part of the covenant most of the population disregarded, to its detriment.  Consistent with that ethic of caring for the poor and the needy was the example of Jesus, who modeled the teaching that the way to true greatness is servanthood.

As for the readings from the epistles, I must make some critical (in the highest sense of that word) comments about them.  They do contain some sexism, but not as much as some think.  The texts do speak of the responsibilities of husbands toward their wives, after all.  The overall portrait is one of a high degree of mutuality.  Also, the failure to condemn slavery disturbs me.  That failure is a recurring theme in Christian history, from the first century to at least the nineteenth century.  Christianity need not mean default contrariness, for not everything in society is wrong, but the Christian Gospel ought to lead one to oppose servitude and sexism.  The Gospel is, after all, about liberation–freedom to serve God without the societal constraints foreign to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/devotion-for-proper-22-year-d/

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Nobility and Love   1 comment

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Defense Mechanisms   1 comment

Job Illustration

Above:  One of William Blake’s Illustrations Based on the Book of Job

Image Source = William Safire, The First Dissident:  The Book of Job in Today’s Politics (New York, NY:  Random House, 1992)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (Monday)

Job 5:8-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 77 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Monday)

1 Peter 3:8-18a (Tuesday)

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I think of God, I am restless,

I ponder, and my spirit faints.

You will not let my eyelids close;

I am troubled and I cannot speak….

Will the Lord cast me off for ever?

will he no more show his favor?

Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion?

–Psalm 77:3-4, 7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Those verses from Psalm 77 remind me of Job.  The assigned readings from the Book of Job come from a speech by Eliphaz the Temanite, who mocks the titular character of the book while reciting a combination of pious platitudes and works-based theology of righteousness.  Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job deserves his fate, for a just deity would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  1 Peter 3:8-18a and Ephesians contradict Eliphaz.

The character of Eliphaz acted partially out of the defense of tradition.  Certainly tradition provides comfort in the form of predictability, but sometimes it is wrong, as are many deeds people commit in defense of it.  Eliphaz should have obeyed the advice of 1 Peter 3:8 instead.  He should have been

full of brotherly affection, kindly and humbly.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

It is better to be compassionate than to be correct in one’s opinion.  To behave correctly is superior to acting badly in defense of one’s theological orthodoxy.  This is a devotion for the season of Lent, a time of repentance and of confession of sin.  May we confess and repent of our defense mechanisms which inflict harm on others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Paths of the Righteous   1 comment

23820v

Above:  Thro’ the Woods, Sagamore Hill, Circa 1904

Photographer = Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cph/item/2009633600/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-23820

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:8-17 (37th Day)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (38th Day)

Deuteronomy 31:1-13 (39th Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Acts 27:39-44 (37th Day)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (38th Day)

John 16:16-24 (39th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

Deuteronomy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 31:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-29-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 27:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/devotion-for-august-4-5-and-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-first-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/devotion-for-june-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

–Psalm 93:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The theme of covenant unites the Old Testament readings for these three days.  Covenant indicates an agreement and a relationship between God and human beings.  There are rules and consequences for violating them.  Many of these rules are specific to a particular culture and level of technology, so one ought to focus on the principle of which the rule is a concrete example in such cases.  The Law of Moses, with its communal focus, is clearly not a product of modern, individualistic Western culture.  Some parts (such as stoning people for a variety of infractions) we should never enforce, I propose, but bringing a communitarian ethos to Western culture would improve it.

A second unifying theme–one which runs through the New Testament lections–is that, sometimes, one’s suffering benefits others.  St. Paul the Apostle  was on the way to Rome as a prisoner.  He died there, a martyr during the reign of the tyrant Nero.  But he converted many people along the way.  The death of our Lord and Savior was certainly for the benefit of a countless number of people.  And, as 1 Peter 3:8-12 reminds us, suffering presents opportunities to exercise potentially reconciling holiness.  Reconciliation, by definition, involves more than one party agreeing to it, so sometimes one offers it and nobody accepts.  Yet the offer itself is valuable.

That reconciling spirit is one of confidence in God, not one of uncertainty and of the quest for vengeance and justice, such as we read of in many of the Psalms.  No, reconciliation overlooks justice sometimes and chooses mercy and forgiveness instead.  It is the way to peace and community building, not reaffirmation that an aggrieved individual is correct.  Reconciliation is a difficult calling, one with which I struggle, but at least that knowledge of my spiritual weakness regarding it is a good place to start.

When we are more concerned with doing the right thing for the right reason than with appearing to be correct, we are on a positive spiritual path.  When we care more about the welfare of others than with our own, we are moving in the right direction.  When we realize that we cannot be at our best if others cannot be at theirs, we see reality clearly.  When we favor community wholeness (without coercion, which is contrary to wholeness anyway) over personal gain, we grasp the fact that we humans need each other, with our differences and similarities.  And we are in a prime position to seek reconciliation (or just conciliation, in some cases).  Then, instead of pursuing selfish, destructive ends and harboring grudges, we will build each other–and therefore ourselves–up, confident that God watches over the paths of the righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-thirty-seventh-thirty-eighth-and-thirty-ninth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Caring for Others   1 comment

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 24-25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Timothy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/\

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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He Descended: Christ’s Descent in the Apostles’ Creed   4 comments

Harrowing of Hades

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

A Medieval Russian Orthodox Icon

Image in the Public Domain

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART XVII

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Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright doing for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit he went to preach to the spirits in prison.

–1 Peter 3:18-19, The New Jerusalem Bible

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…He descended into hell….

The Book of Common Worship (1946), page 47

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I.  INTRODUCTION

I take a break from focusing on specific U.S. Lutheran volumes to write about a related theological question instead.  When I grew up in The United Methodist Church, we said the Apostles’ Creed weekly.  Item #738 in The Methodist Hymnal (1966), renamed The Book of Hymns after the 1968 merger, is the Apostles’ Creed.  That version omits

He descended into Hell,

relegating it to a footnote.  Items #881 and 882 in The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) are the Apostle’s Creed–traditional and ecumenical versions.  Both follow the 1966 Hymnal‘s practice.  And both explain that “catholic” means universal, something which the editors of the 1966 Hymnal saw no need to do.  But that is a different matter and a rabbit I will not chase here.

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II.  POSSIBLE MEANINGS OF THE DESCENT

Philip H. Pfatteicher, the great Lutheran liturgical scholar, points out that the literal translation of the Latin text of that line from the Apostles’ Creed is:

He descended to the lower [world].

Furthermore, Pfatteicher writes, there are three main interpretations of what that means:

  • It emphasizes that Jesus was dead.
  • It indicates that Jesus went to battle Satan.
  • It indicates that Jesus freed the souls of the dead.

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (1988) version of the Apostles’s Creed renders that line:

he descended to the dead,

which applies to all three interpretations.

I prefer the traditional form:

He descended into hell.

This has been the standard U.S. Lutheran rendering, based on my secondary reading and opening of hymnals-service books in my liturgy library.  It remains the text in conservative U.S. Lutheran hymnals-service books and was likewise in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) line until Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), which uses the ecumenical version, with

He descended to the dead,

and places the traditional

He descended into hell

in a footnote.  But the descent is present.

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III.  MATTERS LUTHERAN AND REFORMED

Christ’s descent has been a hot potato for many Protestants over time.  Methodists have tended to avoid it, but at least Presbyterians have wrestled with it.  The Book of Common Worship (1906), of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., for example, placed

He descended into hell

inside brackets and provided an alternative text in a footnote:

He continued in the state of the dead, and under the power of death, until the third day.

The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) removed the brackets but provided a different alternative text:

He continued in the state of the dead until the third day.

The Book of Common Worship (1946) said simply that Christ descended into hell, but our Lord and Savior has descended to the dead since 1970.  That is more than many Calvinists were willing to say for along time.  The Heidelberg Catechism (1562), Question 44 explains the descent into hell this way:

That in my severest tribulations I may be assured that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from hellish anxieties and torment by the unspeakable anguish, pain, and terrors which he suffered in his soul both on the cross and before.

The Book of Concord, however, affirms Christ’s descent into hell.  The Formula of Concord, Epitome IX (1577), says:

This article has also been disputed among some theologians who have subscribed to the Augsburg Confession:  When and in what manner did the Lord Christ, according to our simple Christian faith, descend to hell?  Was this done before or after His death?  Was this done before or after His death?  Did this happen only to His soul, only to the divinity, or with body and soul, spiritually or bodily?  Does this article belong to Christ’s passion or to His glorious victory and triumph?

This article, like the preceding article, cannot be grasped by the senses or by our reason.  It must be grasped through faith alone.  Therefore, it is our unanimous opinion that there should be no dispute over it.  It should be believed and taught only in the simplest way.  Teach it like Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, in his sermon at Torgau in the year 1533.  He has explained this article in a completely Christian way.  He separated all useless, unnecessary questions from it, and encouraged all godly Christians to believe with Christian simplicity.

It is enough to know that Christ descended into hell, destroyed hell for all believers, and delivered them from the power of condemnation and the jaws of hell.  We will save our questions and not curiously investigate about how this happened until the other world.  Then not only this mystery but others will be revealed that we simply believe here and cannot grasp with our blind reason.

The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration IX (1577) affirms:

Even in the Ancient Christian teachers of the Church, as well as among some of our teachers, different explanations of the article about Christ’s descent to hell are found.  Therefore, we abide in the simplicity of our Christian faith.  Dr. Luther has pointed us to this in a sermon about Christ’s descent to hell, which he delivered in the castle at Torgau in the year 1533.  In the Creed we confess, “I believe….in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who…was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.”  In this Confession Christ’s burial and descent to hell are distinguished as separate articles.  We simply believe that the entire person (God and man) descended into hell after the burial, conquered the devil, destroyed hell’s power, and took from the devil all his might.  We should not, however, trouble ourselves with high and difficult thoughts about how this happened.  With our reason and our five senses this article can be understood as little as the preceding one about how Christ is placed at the right hand of God’s almighty power and majesty.  We are simply to believe it and cling to the Word.  So we hold to the substance and consolation that neither hell nor the devil can take captive or injure us and all who believe in Christ.

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IV.  CONCLUSION

The descent of Christ is an important theological point, not one which any Christian should sweep under an ecclesiastical rug.  But it is also a theological point replete with mystery and ambiguity.  Self-identified orthodox Christians have, since the Patristic era, offered competing interpretations of it.  I prefer the Harrowing of Hell version, but it is sufficient for me that a version of the Apostles’ Creed contain Christ’s descent.  Whether it says that he descended into hell or to the dead is a minor issue.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Book of Common Worship.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1906.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946.

Book of Common Worship (Revised), The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1932.

Book of Hymns.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1917.  Reprint, 1932.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Concordia:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1917.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  2d. Ed.  Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Constitution of the Prebyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Fevold, Eugene L.  The Lutheran Free Church:  A Fellowship of American Lutheran Congregations, 1897-1963.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.

Hymnal and Order of Service, The.  Lectionary Edition.  Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Book Concern, 1925.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  3d. Ed.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

Lutheran Hymnary Including the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee.  American Lutheran Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Columbus, OH:  The Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Methodist Hymnal, The:  Official Hymnal of The Methodist Church.  Nashville, TN:  The Methodist Publishing House, 1966.

Pfatteicher, Philip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

United Methodist Hymnal, The:  Book of United Methodist Worship.  Nashville, TN:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worshipbook, The:  Services and Hymns.  Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1972.

KRT

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A Brief History of U.S. Presbyterian Worship to 1905   10 comments

4a03648v

Above:  First Presbyterian Church, Detroit, Michigan, Between 1889 and 1901

Image Published by the Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994003327/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-3750

Currently the home of Ecumenical Theological Seminary (http://www.etseminary.edu/)

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INTRODUCTION

As early as 1560 the Church of Scotland recognized in The First Book of Discipline that Word (the Bible) and Sacrament were essential elements of worship.  Yet much of the history of U.S. Presbyterian worship has been a tale of the missing Holy Communion.  John Knox, the Presbyterian founder in Scotland, insisted on the frequent celebration of the Holy Communion and provided a liturgy for the service (http://archive.org/details/liturgyofchurcho00cumm).  John Calvin favored weekly celebration of that sacrament.  Yet much of the history of U.S. Presbyterian worship is a story of hostility to written forms of worship.

The purpose of this post is, without pretending to be a comprehensive explanation of the topic, to provide historical background on U.S. Presbyterian worship, with an emphasis on liturgy, through 1905.  Why 1905?  I plan to research and write a series of reviews of now-superceded editions of The Book of Common Worship (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/), starting with 1906.  So this post can stand alone quite well or function as a prelude to that series.

Before I proceed I need to define a term.  A liturgy is an agreed-upon, predictable pattern of worship.  It means literally “the work of the people.”  As Father Peter Ingeman, the now-retired Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, said years ago, any church with an agreed-upon, predictable pattern of worship is liturgical.  There are degrees of being liturgical, for some liturgies are more elaborate than others.

One more matter requires attention now.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958) (PCUSA) was the alleged “Northern” church, just as the Presbyterian Church in the United States  (1861-1983) (PCUS) was the “Southern” Church.  The PCUS was mostly Southern, with congregations in the former Confederacy, border states, Oklahoma, and some New Mexico counties.  (It did organize in 1861 as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.)  The PCUSA, in contrast, was national–Northern, Western, Midwestern, Eastern, and Southern.

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BODY

Back in Great Britain, Puritanism influenced Presbyterianism.  During the English Civil Wars the Westminster Assembly of Divines outlawed the allegedly idolatrous Book of Common Prayer and introduced the Directory for the Worship of God in the 1640s.  The English Parliament imposed the Directory on England, Ireland, and Scotland in 1645.  The document established the Bible and a sermon as the center of worship.

I, as an Episcopalian in 2013, find certain religious opinions (especially some from the past) puzzling.  For example, why be hostile to the frequent celebration of the Holy Communion when the founder of one’s own tradition (John Knox, in this case) insisted upon the the practice one opposes?  And whey oppose instruments in church?  (The Church of Scotland lifted its ban on organs in the late 1800s.)  The sole use of psalms or paraphrases thereof for singing was long a Reformed characteristic.  In fact, some very conservative Reformed denominations retain that practice.  These days many Presbyterian congregations left, right, and center use psalms, psalm paraphrases, and hymns for singing.  In the 1750s the Presbyterian congregation in the City of New York replaced its psalter with an Isaac Watts hymnal.  Were human-composed hymns suitable for public worship?  This was a controversial topic.  The Synod of New York and Philadelphia ruled that the hymns of Isaac Watts, being theologically orthodox, were suitable for use in public worship.  The fact that this was even a controversy mystifies me.  I understand it academically, but not otherwise.

The mindset which opposed singing even theologically orthodox hymns because people wrote them was Jure Divino.  This point of view argued that one needed biblical permission to do anything in church.  There were–and remain–competing interpretations of Jure Divino.  The strictest one forbid even the celebration of Christmas and Easter.  One can find such arguments on the Internet today.  And one can find examples of it by examining Minutes of Presbyterian General Assemblies.  In 1899, for example, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the former “Southern Presbyterian Church,” passed the following resolution, found on page 430 of the official record:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

Such simplicity manifested itself traditionally in plain church buildings, sermon-focused worship services, and quarterly Holy Communion.  The spoken word occupied the center of worship.

Yet there were Presbyterians who favored formality in worship.  Some ministers, influenced by Anglicanism, came to admire The Book of Common Prayer (1789).  And, in the 1850s and 1860s, support for formality grew among lay members.  Beginning in the 1840s congregations built Romanesque and Neo-Gothic structures.  Compatible with those new old-style buildings was an interest in Reformation-era Reformed liturgies.  One Charles W. Baird published Eutaxia:  or the Presbyterian Liturgies:  Historical Sketches, in 1855.  He made a case that written forms of worship were consistent with Reformed Christianity.  That same year St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York, opened in a new Romanesque building.  In the pews were copies of a manual of worship for the purpose for increasing congregation participation, restricted traditionally to singing (http://archive.org/details/musicws00stpe, http://archive.org/details/churchbookofstpe00roch, and http://archive.org/details/bookofworshipinu00stpe).  Ironically, the Presbyterian traditionalists who objected to all this formalism opposed a pattern of worship more traditional than the one they favored.  So were not the formalists really the traditionalists recovering a lost heritage?

The 1882 PCUSA General Assembly declined to prepare and publish an official book of worship yet authorized ministers to use any Reformed book of worship they desired.  Such books existed.  There was an anonymous Presbyterian Church Union Service, or Union Book of Worship, from the Liturgies of the Reformers (1868) (http://archive.org/details/presbyterianchur00newy).  In 1877 Alexander Archibald Hodge published the first edition of Manual of Forms (http://archive.org/details/manualofforms00hodg), used widely in upstate New York.  A second edition followed five years later.  The granddaddy of these books was The Book of Common Prayer as Amended by the Westminster Divines, A.D. 1661 (1864) (http://archive.org/details/bookofcommonpray00shie), by the Reverend Charles W. Shields, a Princeton College professor.  He had added Roman Catholic elements to worship at his congregation, Second Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and written rituals for weddings, baptisms, and Holy Communion.  In this volume Shields argued that the Presbyterians had as much a historical claim to The Book of Common Prayer as did the Episcopalians, for there was an attempt at an Anglican-Presbyterian union in England in 1661. His argument won few followers, his book did not become a bestseller, and he became an Episcopal priest in time. But Shields had laid the foundations for successor volumes.

Other unofficial volumes followed in the 1880s and 1890s.  Samuel M. Hopkins, a Professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City, published A General Liturgy and Book of Common Prayer (http://archive.org/details/generalliturgybo00hopk) in 1883.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bank President Benjamin Comegys published three such books:

And Herrick Johnson, the 1882-1883 Moderator the the General Assembly, published Forms for Special Occasions (1889 and 1900).  (http://archive.org/details/formsforspecialo00john).

The 1778 U.S. Directory of Worship remained in effect in the PCUS into the 1890s and in the PCUSA into the twentieth century.  The 1788 Directory of Worship provided mostly general advice on worship and a few forms, which most Presbyterian ministers ignored for a long time.  The 1894 PCUS Directory for Worship contained forms for a wedding, a child’s funeral, and a general funeral as well as prayers adapted from John Knox and unofficial PCUSA worship manuals.  Nevertheless, there was less support for liturgical renewal in the PCUS than in the PCUSA.

This is a good time to add to support the previous statement while adding responsive readings to the list of formerly controversial topics.  PCUS traditionalists were reluctant to add responsive readings to worship services in the 1890s.  In the PCUSA, the 1874 General Assembly had declared responsive readings

without warrant in the New Testament

and

unwise and impolitic

in their

inevitable tendency to destroy uniformity in our mode of worship.

Furthermore, congregations were to

preserve, in act and spirit, the simplicity of service indicated in the [1788] Directory for Worship.

Yet the 1888 General Assembly affirmed the decisions of the Presbytery of Washington City and the Synod of Baltimore not to hear an official complaint against two ministers for introducing responsive readings at their churches.

Then there was the matter of the Apostles’ Creed.  The 1892 PCUSA General Assembly ruled that using the Creed was consistent with the 1788 Directory of Worship and useful for educating children in the Christian faith.  If a minister did not want say that Christ descended into hell or to the dead, he could substitute the following:

He continued in the state of the dead, and under the power of death, until the third day.

I wonder why serious students of the Scriptures would have difficulty with the original statement, for 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6, and Ephesians 4:9-10 point to it.  If one stands on Scriptural ground on the basis of Sola Scriptura, one ought to have no difficulty affirming the descent of Christ into Hell.  But, if one is perhaps especially opposed to Roman Catholicism, one might make room for theological hypocrisy in the name of defending one’s own Protestant identity.  I, as an Episcopalian, stand on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, not Sola Scriptura, and I affirm our Lord and Savior’s descent into Hell.

The 1896 PCUSA General Assembly noted

the present freedom under the limits of our Directory for Worship,

calling such freedom

more reliable and edifying

than uniform rituals.  Seven years later the General Assembly appointed a committee to prepare what became The Book of Common Worship (1906) (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-book-of-common-worship-1906/), an authorized yet voluntary volume.  But, as we will see in the review of that book, even the existence of the volume proved offensive to many in the denomination.  As Harold M. Daniels wrote,

…in a church born in reactive Puritanism, fixed prayer was too easily dismissed as “canned prayer.”

To God Alone Be the Glory:  The Story and Sources of the Book of Common Worship (Louisville, KY:  Geneva Press, 2003, pages 31-32)

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CONCLUSION

Something which we today take for granted and find inoffensive probably offended someone greatly in a previous age.  In this post alone we have seen some examples of this generalization in public worship:  hymns, responsive readings, the Apostles’ Creed, and voluntary books of worship.  Some people needed to relax more.  Going through life that easily offended must have raised their stress levels.

Here ends this history lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Other Posts in This Series:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-book-of-common-worship-1906/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-revised-1932/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-1946/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-worshipbook-services-and-hymns-1972-services/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/an-incomplete-recovery-of-the-holy-eucharist/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/

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